Charles B. Brown House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 385 Maple Street, at the corner of George Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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This house was built in 1895 for Charles B. Brown, a carriage manufacturer who had worked for Brockett & Tuttle of New Haven for many years before coming to Springfield to work for J.H. Rogers Carriage Company. He lived here with his wife Alice and their three children, but by 1910 this house had been sold to Mary Castle, an elderly widow who lived here with a servant until the 1920s. The next owner of the house was Franklin D. Neale, an attorney who lived here with his wife Orpha and their five children until at least 1940.

Architecturally, the house somewhat reflects a shift in house styles at the end of the 19th century. It includes a tower, which was practically an obligatory feature in Queen Anne-style houses of the era, yet it lacks the excessive ornamentation that was common for such houses. Instead, the rest of the house more closely resembles the much simpler American Foursquare design that was just coming into popularity at the time.

Today, the exterior of the house remains well-preserved from the first photo, which was taken back when the Neale family still lived here. It is one of many historic late 19th century homes along Maple Street, and serves as a reminder of the days when this neighborhood was one of the most desirable residential areas of the city. Along with the rest of the area, it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

Merrick-Phelps House, Springfield, Mass

The Merrick-Phelps House at 83 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This house at the corner of Maple and Union Streets was built in 1841 as the home of Solyman Merrick, a tool manufacturer who, six years earlier, had invented the monkey wrench. He sold his patent to Stephen C. Bemis, and had apparently made enough money off the sale to afford this elegant house. The same year he moved into this house, Merrick married Henrietta Bliss, and the couple lived here until her death, just three years later. In 1847, Merrick sold the house and had another new one built, this time nearly across the street at 104 Maple Street.

The second owner of this house was Ansel Phelps, an attorney who served as mayor from 1856 to 1858. He died in 1860, and for many years this section of Maple Street continued to be the home of some of the city’s most prominent residents. This house remained as a single-family home well into the 20th century, but gradually fell into decline along with the rest of the neighborhood, suffering from years of neglect.

By the early 2000s it was badly deteriorated. The interior had significant water damage, and the exterior porches and pillars were collapsing. However, it was purchased by DevelopSpringfield in 2013, and the organization restored the home to its original condition. The restoration was completed in 2016, with the interior being converted into offices. Along with this house, DevelopSpringfield is also working on restoring the adjacent 1832 Female Seminary, visible in the background of both photos. When complete, these two restored buildings, along with the carriage house of the Merrick-Phelps House, will form an office park of historic 19th century buildings.

Julius H. Appleton House, Springfield, Mass

The Julius H. Appleton House on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2015:

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The late 1800s saw a number of mansions built along this section of Maple Street, where many of the city’s most prominent residents lived. Sadly, many of these homes are gone now, but one of the survivors is this mansion at 313 Maple Street, built in 1886 for Julius H. Appleton. It was designed by Eugene C. Gardner, a local architect who also built the recently-demolished YWCA Building on Howard Street. The architecture of the house reflects both Stick style and the related Queen Anne style, both of which were common at the end of the Victorian era in the late 1880s. It is wood-frame, with wood exteriors on the second and third floors, but the first floor exterior is made of brownstone quarried in nearby Longmeadow.

The original owner, Julius H. Appleton, had previously lived in this house on Union Street, and he was a businessman who was involved in a number of different companies. He ran a steam heating company for several years and later became involved in the paper industry, serving as president of the Riverside Paper Company. He was also president of the Hartford & Connecticut Western Railroad, and he served as a director for many area businesses, including Mass Mutual, the Springfield Street Railway Company, Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company, and many others. In addition to his business involvements, he also held several political offices, including serving for two years on the City Council and two years on the state Governor’s Council. Appleton died in 1904 at the age of 64, and his funeral, which was held here at his house, was attended by many distinguished guests, including Governor John L. Bates and former Governor Winthrop M. Crane.

The first photo shows the house over 30 years after Appleton’s death, but the exterior appearance was essentially the same. Even today, the house retains all of its original elements in this scene, including the tower, the two-story porch, the shorter turret to the left, and the semi-circular porch around it. The only major change to the property has been the carriage house, which is partially visible to the right beyond the house. The original one burned down around 1980, but the owners later built a replica on the same spot.

David Ames, Jr. House, Springfield, Mass

The David Ames, Jr. House, on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house in 2015:

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This historic house was built in 1826-1827, for David Ames. Jr., a local paper manufacturer. It was one of the first of many 19th century mansions to be built along this section of Maple Street, on a hill overlooking downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River. The house bears a strong resemblance to the smaller, older Alexander House, and it was designed by Chauncey Shepard, a young local architect who later built homes for many other notable residents, including Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson, whose pistol factory he also designed.

David Ames, Jr. came from a prominent industrial family. His father, David Ames, Sr., was the son of an iron mill owner, and David, Sr. began manufacturing shovels and guns during the American Revolution. In 1794, he was appointed by George Washington to serve as the first superintendent of the Springfield Armory, and after leaving his position in 1802 he began manufacturing paper. David, Jr. and his brother John followed in their father’s footsteps in the paper industry, and their company eventually operated mills in Springfield, Chicopee Falls, South Hadley Falls, Northampton, and Suffield.

In 1867, David, Jr. sold the house to his son-in-law, Solomon J. Gordon. Over 40 years after he first built it, Chauncey Shepard was then hired to extensively renovate the house, and the first photo here shows its appearance sometime after these significant alterations. David, Jr. continued to live here until his death in 1883 at the age of 91, and Solomon died just eight years later. The house remained in his family for some time after that, but it later became part of the MacDuffie School. In 2011, the school moved to a new location in Granby, but just before the move happened at the end of the school year, the Springfield campus was heavily damaged by the June 1 tornado. The tornado caused significant damage to the Ames House, including the loss of the front portico and much of the roof.

Nearly five years after the tornado, the house has still not been restored, and the two photos above show the contrast between what it looked like before and after 2011. It is one of the most historically significant homes still standing in Springfield, though, and this year the Springfield Preservation Trust included the house on their annual Most Endangered Historic Resources list.

Maple Street Homes, Springfield Mass

Several homes on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Around the turn of the last century, Maple Street was one of the best places in Springfield to live. This side of the street was particularly desirable, because of the view looking toward downtown Springfield and across the Connecticut River. Today, that isn’t the case. Although the view is still there, it is no longer one of the city’s premier residential areas, and the two mansions in the first photo no longer exist.

Located directly across the street from the former MacDuffie School campus, this area was right in the path of the June 1, 2011 tornado that tore across western Massachusetts. These houses, however, were gone long before then.  The one on the right was at the time the home of businessman and city library president Nathan D. Bill, and was built in the 1880s as the Andrew Fennessy House. It was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1969, after having been vacant for several years. Today, only the concrete driveway is still there, and can be seen better on Google Maps. The house just beyond it was built in 1882 and belonged to Walter H. Wesson, the son of Daniel Wesson, co-founder of Smith & Wesson. In 1982, this historic house was also heavily damaged in a fire, and was subsequently demolished.

D.B. Wesson’s House, Springfield

D.B. Wesson’s house on Maple Street, as it appeared between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The site today:

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The building in the early 20th century was the home of Daniel B. Wesson, a firearm designer who co-founded a company that some readers may have heard of.  Mr. Wesson, needless to say, was a wealthy man.  Located at 50 Maple Street, at the present-day intersection of Maple and Dwight, it was built in 1898, and was Wesson’s home until he died in 1906.  The house was purchased by a social club, the Colony Club, in 1915, and was used until February 20, 1966, when the building burned and was replaced by the bland, nondescript building that now stands on the lot.